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Where can you find the Big Five in Uganda?

Apart from the Northern White Rhino (which can only be seen in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and Entebbe UWEC Zoo), tourists have a good chance of seeing the other members of the Africa Big 5 in any of the four savanna parks.

A savanna safari game drive in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo and  Kidepo Valley will put you in the center of nonchalant herds of cape buffalo, African elephants hunting pride of African lions. For the shy leopard, a relaxed and patient early or late evening savanna drive may lead you to its hunting joints.

A boat safari on the Nile in Murchison Falls NP or on the Kazinga channel is a great way to spot the Africa big 5 in Uganda. Especially in the dry seasons (December to February and June to July), heat is sure to bring them out to the shores to catch a sip of the fresh waters.

1. African Lion (Panthera leo)

The largest and most imposing African carnivore, and the most sought after member of the Africa big 5, the African lion, is the most sociable of the large cats, living in loosely structured prides of typically five to 15 members. Lions have special cultural significance in most countries on the continent. In Uganda, they enjoy a reputation as ‘king of the beasts’ and are popular symbols of royalty, strength and bravery.

In Uganda lions are mainly found in the three largest savanna parks: Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), Kidepo Valley National Park (KVNP) and Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). In QENP, the Ishasha lions are known for their unique behavior of climbing trees and have been branded the “Ishasha tree-climbing lions” by tourists who flock this sector to have sight of this rare behavior.

2. Leopard (Panthera pardus)

This is the most elusive, and also the smallest, of Africa big 5 animals. Leopards are sneaky and harder to spot. Naturally shy and exclusively nocturnal, leopards spend the daylight hours hidden from view. The solitary big cats haul large kills, such as zebra or antelope, into a tree to eat alone, in peace.

These impressively shy cats can be distinguished from cheetahs by their rosette-shaped spots and more powerful build, as well as by their preference for wooded or rocky habitats. They are found in virtually all habitats which offer adequate cover, and are present in most Ugandan national parks and forest reserves.

On  a Uganda safari, leopards can be seen in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley , Lake Mburo National Park , Mt Elgon National Park and Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

3. African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), the world’s largest of all Africa big five found in Uganda and perhaps the most enduring symbol of nature’s grace and fragility, is also one of the most intelligent and entertaining to watch on a classic Africa safari game drive. A fully-grown male elephant can weigh a whooping 6300 kilos, even the smallest adult male rarely dips below 4000 kilos, which is way more than twice the weight on an average family. Females are usually just over half the weight of the male.

If you’re planning your  safari in Uganda and would like to meet these magnificent giants, you must know that the African elephants occur in all national parks except for Lake Mburo. They are most likely to be seen in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo national parks. We recommend you take a boat safari on the Nile in Murchison or  Kazinga channel in QENP to get a sight of these gentle giants gracefully flocking the water banks in massive herds.

4. African Buffalo/ Cape Buffalo

Africa’s only wild African buffalo ox species is an adaptable and widespread creature that lives in large herds on the savanna and smaller herds in forested areas. The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), is the most dangerous of all African game species especially if wounded or solitary. Its reputation has placed it on the Africa big 5 animals recognized worldwide.

African buffalo are very large, even-toed ungulates, characterized by their stocky build and heavy horns. Horns are present on both sexes and they are not ridged. The buffalo is easily distinguished from other animals because of its dark black color and its characteristic horns smaller and lighter curving outward, backwards, and upwards. Ears are large fringed with hair and hang below massive horns.

Buffaloes can be seen in just about all of Uganda’s national parks and large forests. In Lake Mburo, Queen,  Elizabeth and Murchison Falls national parks you may see hybrids of the savanna buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) of east Africa and the red buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus) of the west African forest.

5. Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros, or commonly known as, rhino is a large, herbivorous mammal identified by its characteristic horned snouts. The word “rhinoceros” comes from the Greek words “rhino” (nose) and “ceros” (horn).

Rhinoceroses are universally recognized by their massive bodies, stumpy legs and either one or two dermal horns. In some species, the horns may be short or not obvious. They are renowned for having poor eyesight, but their senses of smell and hearing are well developed.

The biggest of the five surviving species occurs in Uganda, the Northern white rhino and can only be seen in the massively protected Ziwa Rhino sanctuary and the Uganda Wildlife Education Center in Entebbe commonly referred to as the Zoo.

Who are the Big 5 animals?


The term “Big Five” originally referred to the difficulty in hunting the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. These five large African mammal species were known to be dangerous and it was considered a feat by trophy hunters to bring them home.

What is the biggest animal in Uganda?

African elephant

Elephants (Loxodonta africana), these are the largest living mammals on land which are found in Uganda’s National Parks or game reserves. An adult African elephant is 3.5m high and weighs over 6,000kgs.

What can you not wear in Uganda for a safari?

Short, tight or revealing clothes should be avoided. And our advice would be to avoid wearing shorts – most Ugandan women would not wear these; they wear skirts or dresses that usually cover the knees. A long skirt or loose-fitting trousers are good in the heat and will protect you from the sun.

What are the big 6 in Africa?

The term is attributed to the hunters of old, who used the term to describe what they determined were the most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa. They are lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and Cape buffaloes. All formidable foes indeed when being hunted by man

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